Jonathan Hartman: "In a small town, you're part of the community"

Jonathan Hartman, Underwood art teacher

Jonathan Hartman stopped at the Battle Lake hardware store one day for bolts.

“Take a couple of each and whatever you don’t need, you can bring back,” the clerk told him.

Jonathan, an Underwood art teacher and potter, tells that story fondly. It’s something that just wouldn’t happen back in Kansas City, Missouri, where he grew up.

He moved to Otter Tail County because his wife, Angela, also a teacher, grew up in Fergus Falls. He has a master’s in education from St. Mary’s University in the Twin Cities, and is working on a master’s in community art from Eastern Illinois University.

When their son, Clayton, 6, was born with health issues, the Hartmans experienced west-central Minnesota’s generosity and support.

“They ended up doing a benefit dinner and just had huge numbers of people show up,” he said. “In a large town like Kansas City, I don’t think that would happen. In a big city, you’re just a number. You’re a body. In a small town, you’re part of the community.”

Living in a small town hasn’t hindered Jonathan’s ability to pursue the arts. He has landed $25,000 in legacy grants for student work, field trips to art museums, and visiting artists. He also helped create Battle Lake’s public art project that brought planters and benches to downtown as well as an alley with a giant fish and a place to create chalk art. And his own pottery work is thriving, with repeat customers eager for his vases, platters and yarn bowls.

Meanwhile, their family, including 10-year-old Cadence, enjoys getting outside.

“We’re lucky enough to live on a lake so we have the serenity of that atmosphere,” Jonathan said. “In the summertime we go swimming almost every day. We do enjoy where we live.”

Steve Henning